100,000 children under five 'have never practiced learning activities at home'

Children from lower income families are more likely to fall behind at school
Children from lower income families are more likely to fall behind at school
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Around 100,000 children under five have never done activities at home with their parents to try to boost their learning skills, a survey suggests.

The Department for Education poll of 2,685 parents of children aged five or younger found almost a third (31%) of their children do not read with someone at home daily.

Only around half spend time learning the alphabet or recognising words (51%), counting or learning numbers (58%), or learning songs, poems or nursery rhymes (59%) daily.

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Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "We want to create a generation of confident learners - and parents are a child's first and best teacher, helping to get them talking and communicating before they reach the classroom.

"You don't need expensive books or toys to help children develop literacy skills. It can be as simple as reading a library book together or making up your own stories - little interactions can have a huge impact."

The Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents 2017 found 2.4% of children aged 0-5 in England had never practised any learning activities at home, equating to more than 100,000 children.

Mr Zahawi added: "Children from lower income families are more likely to fall behind at school compared to their peers and once you're behind it's hard to catch up. That's why we are launching a major new campaign later this year to help parents incorporate Chat, Play and Read into their daily life, putting their children on track to succeed."

The department has partnered with the National Literacy Trust, a charity which offers free advice and information to help parents make practical changes to their relationship with their children, to promote the Chat, Play and Read campaign.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: "Changing the course of a child's life story doesn't begin on their first day of school, but on their first day of life. And it starts with small talk.

"Every seemingly small interaction between a parent and a child is a great opportunity to fill that child's world with words: bath time can be a great time to sing a song together, bus journeys can provide opportunities to talk about what you see around you, and a trip to the library will enable you to choose a book to take home and share together."

Sarah Darton, chief executive of the Family Links children's charity, backed the effort to get parents to chat, play and read with their children.

She pointed out that "chatting and playing with babies and children not only increases their learning but also their social and emotional development".

Ms Darton suggested that parents who are struggling to find time to play could perhaps try to be playful generally.

This could be by chatting and listening throughout their day while doing everyday things such as walking to nursery, doing the shopping or making the tea.